Summary: Baptism and becoming new.
Drowning In The Grace Of God
January 6, 2008
As I have imagined these verses in my mind. I see the Jordan River, running not fast but slow - smooth and calm with not a rapid in sight. I see this 156-mile river near the end of its journey of connecting the Sea of Galilee to the Dead or Salt Sea. And I see people - lots of people on its banks. I see common people in their common clothes and I see a second grouping of people, important looking folk in heir fine almost royalty-like garb.
As I have tried to play this text over and over in my mind, I make a mental note to myself that this River - the Jordan River - this place that had attracted all these people was not a River that was near to where they were living. This river didn’t run through town. This river was outside of town to the east.
And so in our text when Matthew tells us in verse 5 that, "People went out to John the Baptist from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan" and when Matthew tells us in verse 7 that "many of the Pharisees and Sadducees came to where John was baptizing." I make a note to myself that these people made a point, put forth some effort, had chosen to make this journey to the Jordan River.
Their reason for going? John - John the Baptist, this camel’s hair and leather belt wearing - locust and honey eating prophet. He was their reason.
Hundreds of years earlier the writer, Isaiah prophesied there would be a voice of one calling in the desert, "Prepare the way for the Lord make straight paths for him." And now that voice had come, had appeared. That voice was calling out. His message v. 2, "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near."
And the result was that "people went out to him from Jerusalem" (v. 5) and "many of the Pharisees and Sadducees came out to where he was baptizing." (v. 7) As I imagine this text - I see the Jordan River with these people along its banks.
Within you and me - within us is an instinctive response to listen for and respond to messages, announcements teachings, words that can bring or give hope.
Or a new beginning to our lives.
Within you and me - within myself is this need, this desire to respond to that which will help me, assist me, lead me into the life I’ve always wanted.
People - you and me created in the very image of God-are very often searching for answers, hope, healing, help to health issues.
This trait about you and me is the reason why every bookstore has a self-help section, filled with books by various authors who promise you and me remedies and methodologies to fix the shattered pieces of our lives.
Many buy those books.
Or watch the TV shows
Or read the magazines
Or listen to the radio program to these voices crying out. We like the folk in our text - come out to see, come out to hear, come out of our broken selves and decide whether this voice is one we want to respond to. We like the people in the text stand along the banks or at least sit on our couches listening to or reading the words of those who claim they can help us.
Though we do this - when we do this we most often do this at home, or in our car - we listen to these voices in private or with a select few.
It is rare for us to broadcast our brokenness, our pain, our disappointments, our yearnings, instead we put on masks - which disguise to the world the truth about ourselves, our condition, our needs. We want to project something we claim to be or aspire to be while internally we are melting away, burdened by God only knows what.
And so when I read Matthew’s words that the people went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan a side of me isn’t surprised - not at all. John was the voice - the latest voice offering hope. Yet when I read in verse 6 that those people "confessed their sins and were baptized by John" I take notice.
These people weren’t just taking a field trip.
These folk were not taking an afternoon stroll.
Most of these people were not simply bystanders.
Tourists watching this spectacle in the Jordan River.
No - these people came clean.
These people named, identified, and spoke out their brokenness and surrendered themselves - their true selves to the waters of the Jordan River.